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November 30, 2013

Holiday shopping off to a brisk start

Sales expected to be up 3.9 percent from last year, to $602 billion

(Continued)

The National Retail Federation, a retail trade group, predicted that 33 million, or almost a quarter, of the 140 million people who planned to shop during the four-day holiday weekend that ends on Sunday, would do so on Thanksgiving.

“Retailers were pretty successful in drawing the consumers into the stores on Thursday,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin, whose company counts how many shoppers go into about 40,000 stores in U.S. But “Thursday’s sales came at the expense of Black Friday’s numbers.”

The decline in sales on Black Friday was the second one in a row. Last year, sales on that day dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion, though it still was the biggest shopping day last year, according to ShopperTrak.

Townsend could also see the difference.

“It wasn’t as bad as last year. Last year was more busy when we opened because we weren’t open Thanksgiving night. It was steady but not overwhelming,” she said.

She even did some Black Friday shopping herself during her break.

There will be a clearer picture of sales for the first holiday shopping weekend on Sunday when The National Retail Federation releases data.

Overall, the retail trade group expects sales to be up 3.9 percent to $602 billion for the season, which encompasses the last two months of the year. That’s higher than last year’s 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the recession.

However, there are still a lot of people out there with shopping to do — waiting for the crowds to calm down.

Christopher Dion, of Haverhill, said Black Friday isn’t his “cup of tea.”

“I just couldn’t justify standing in line in the cold for the chance of getting a discount on something. Sometimes the best deals come later in the month,” he said. “From the Facebook posts I have seen my friends writing, I think I made the right choice. A lot of them were complaining about the whole ordeal.”

Dion said he participated in Black Friday a few years ago but probably wouldn’t do it again anytime soon.

Materials from the AP was used in this story.

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